Two months ago. South Africa. Everything was backwards.
Speeding down the N1. Learning to drive on the left. This was one time the words “crash course” seemed woefully inappropriate. I was on the highway that would take us from Cape Town to South Africa’s wine country. Passing on the right was normal. The right lane was the fast lane. My girlfriend Kelly sat in the passengers seat — to my left.
Kelly was managing our maps. Yes, physical maps. We didn’t bring our iPhones (or computers). No technology to worry about outside iPods. We were, excepting the handful of stops at internet cafes, disconnected from the mobile age.
It was wonderful and freeing. While I have experimented with disconnecting before, this trip gave me a new appreciation for not knowing.
I realize how often I rely on my digital devices to augment knowledge. Whether resolving silly disputes about little known facts (what was the name of that actor from that movie?) to telling me where to go (what’s the address again?), we realized how often we rely on mobile.
For example, back to our journey out to wine country. We had booked a hotel, knew its name, knew how to get to the town the hotel was located in…. but we forgot to write the address down. No problem in the iPhone age. But a bit of s problem for us. We didn’t know, didn’t have any immediate way of knowing, and had to be okay with it.
We were fine, of course. We found it on our own with some luck, but we could have just pulled over in town and asked. Living disconnected was a powerful experience in many ways:
– We had to make true plans to meet our friends there (no “text you when I get there”, no “ish”.)
– Little facts had to remain unknown, and honestly, it didn’t matter one bit that we couldn’t remember.
– We simply made decisions on restuarants based on how many people were eating somewhere, and the menu (no Yelp)
– Kelly and I had to determine specific locations and times to meet when we explored on our own.
– We weren’t distracted when out, we had no device to “escape” reality or divide our attention. I vividly remember a time waiting for Kelly … and just looking around, observing. It was wonderful. Perhaps, without the magic of technology, we find magic in the world.
The mobile age offers us a lot of answers and instant information. But experiencing life without mobile reminded me how much of a luxury it is. And how fun it can be to sit with the questions and just be okay not knowing.